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The 10 Worst Foods for Bloating

by
author image Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, CSSD
Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, CSSD privately counsels clients in LA, NYC, and long-distance, and is the author of “Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast.”

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The 10 Worst Foods for Bloating
Iced latte

You can change your outfit a hundred times, but there’s nothing you can do once the look and feel of bloating hits. Fortunately, you can prevent that miserable moment from happening by steering clear of certain foods. Here are 10 bloat-triggering foods and beverages to cut down on — or avoid altogether — so you can feel more comfortable and look your best.

1. Carbonated Drinks
A glass of sparkling water

1 CARBONATED DRINKS

Sparkling drinks like LaCroix, seltzer and club soda are summer staples for many, but they’re also top contributors to belly swell. “The bubbles created by carbonation get trapped in your belly, which can lead to gas,” says Samantha Cassetty, M.S., RD, nutrition counselor and communications consultant.

For a tasty way to hydrate without the fizz, Cassetty recommends enhancing plain, flat water with herbs or fruit. “Strawberry and basil is a refreshing combination, but lemon and lime slices are also an easy way to boost flavor,” she says. Experiment with your own combinations, like blueberries with mint or ginger with pineapple. You can also freeze bits of fruit and herbs or spices in ice cube trays. They’ll keep you refreshed and flavor your water as they melt.

Read more: 10 Surprising Flat-Belly Foods

2. Sugar Alcohols
A group of friends eat lollipops.

2 SUGAR ALCOHOLS

If you’re watching your waistline, you may reach for sugar-free baked goods, candies or energy bars. But many of these products contain sugar alcohols, including sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, mannitol, erythritol and maltitol, which are low in calories but may cause gas and bloating in some people.

Sugar alcohols are part of the group of compounds called FODMAPs, which stands for fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides and polyols. These compounds bypass being absorbed in the small intestine and move to the large intestine where bacteria use them as a food source. “Bacteria ferment them, causing gas, bloating and abdominal pain for some,” says nutrition advocate and consultant Rachel Begun, M.S., RDN, adding that everyone’s tolerance for sugar alcohols is different. To test your body’s response, look for sugar alcohols in the ingredient lists of packaged foods, and if you find yourself feeling gassy and bloated, swap foods that contain sugar alcohols for individually wrapped squares of dark chocolate or frozen grapes.

3. Coffee
Iced coffee with cream

3 COFFEE

Drinking coffee may be your favorite way to start the day, but it can also be a chronic contributor to bloating. “The caffeine in your cup of coffee leads to increased acid levels in your stomach, which can irritate the gut lining and potentially lead to bloating, especially if you drink coffee on an empty stomach,” says Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary nutritionist and author of “The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook.”

Newgent notes that what you add to your coffee can also be a factor. “If you add cow milk to coffee, but you have lactose intolerance, the inability to properly digest lactose can also lead to bloating,” Newgent explains. If coffee triggers your tummy, a trendy alternative is a chilled golden milk latte. Shake a handful of ice with one cup of a plant-based milk, such as almond or coconut, along with a few teaspoons of honey, a quarter teaspoon each of fresh grated ginger root and ground turmeric, and a dash of black pepper and cinnamon.

Read more: The 12 Worst Coffee Drinks to Order

4. Salty Snacks
Chips

4 SALTY SNACKS

Beach days, picnics and backyard barbecues often involve bowls of salty snacks like pretzels. But these savory bites may leave you feeling a little uncomfortable. “Salty foods encourage your body to hold onto water, and that excess fluid can make you feel and look bloated,” says nutrition counselor Samantha Cassetty. She notes that at least 75 percent of the sodium in our diets comes from packaged and processed foods, making items like chips and crackers big contributors to bloat.

To thwart the effect, be more selective about what you serve by comparing nutrition labels at the market. For example, a serving of nacho cheese-flavored tortilla chips (about 11 chips) can pack more than 200 milligrams of sodium (9 percent of your daily value), compared to just 75 milligrams (3 percent) in nearly four cups of popped popcorn

5. Apples
Apples

5 APPLES

Apples are an undeniably healthy snack, but what you might not have guessed is that they can also trigger bloating. The reason? They’re on the FODMAPs list. “FODMAPs land in the large intestine where bacteria gobble them up, causing gas that you may notice as belly bloat,” says Rachel Meltzer Warren, M.S., RDN, a New Jersey-based nutritionist and author of “A Teen’s Guide to Gut Health.”

Other healthful but high-FODMAPs foods include whole-wheat bread, onions and mangoes. Surprised? If you struggle with chronic bloating, you might want to skim the entire FODMAPs list. “Check out a book on the low-FODMAPs diet or the Low FODMAP Diet app from Monash University,” Meltzer Warren advises. The app categorizes foods via a green, yellow and red color system, so you’ll not only know which foods to avoid, but also which to seek out instead.

6. Diet Foods Sweetened With Sucralose
Popsicles

6 DIET FOODS SWEETENED WITH SUCRALOSE

If you choose diet or lower-calorie versions of summery foods like yogurt, frozen pops and gelatin, you may be setting yourself up for belly bloat. This is because many of these foods contain the artificial sweetener sucralose. “Though the exact mechanism that may cause this is unclear, what we do know is that in a rat study, sucralose was found to change the microbial makeup in the gut, reducing ‘good’ bacteria,” says Jackie Newgent, RDN.

To sidestep this effect, become a staunch label sleuth. Sucralose may be lurking as an ingredient in foods you wouldn’t expect, such as cereal, bread and English muffins. You can also opt for sucralose-free DIY versions of chilled treats, like plain yogurt sweetened with a teaspoon of honey and pureed fruit frozen in pop molds.

Read more: 10 Easy Drink Swaps to Cut Down on Sugar

7. Broccoli
Broccoli

7 BROCCOLI

As a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, broccoli is a nutrient-rich protector against inflammation and a potent cancer fighter. “Broccoli does contain raffinose, however, an indigestible carbohydrate that, like the FODMAPs compounds, gets gobbled up by bacteria in the colon, releasing gas and potentially causing some bloat,” says nutritionist Rachel Meltzer Warren.

To fit in this superfood without getting the unwanted effects, Meltzer Warren recommends starting with a small portion and slowly working up to a larger portion to figure out your limits. “Definitely do not drop broccoli from your diet in the name of a less-bloated belly,” urges Meltzer Warren. Instead, allow your body to guide you on the amount and frequency that feels just right for you.

8. Alcohol
A class of rosé

8 ALCOHOL

You might be all about the rosé and margs, but consuming any kind of alcohol can wreak havoc with your digestive system. “Since alcohol acts as an irritant, it may contribute to bloating, especially if you have a condition like irritable bowel syndrome,” says Jackie Newgent, RDN. She adds that some alcoholic beverages (like beer and hard lemonade) also contain gluten, which can cause bloating for people with a gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance.

Fortunately, most people can prevent intense bloating by avoiding the double-whammy effect of combining alcohol with another digestive irritant. These include carbonation, salted rims and diet mixers. Your best bets for a flatter midsection include moderate amounts of non-sparkling wine or liquor (the distilling process removes the gluten) combined with a splash of 100 percent fruit juice. Natural ingredients like mint, basil and ginger also make great mixers.

Read more: The 13 Worst Alcoholic Drinks Sure to Derail Your Diet

9. Sugar-Free Gum
Three pieces of gum

9 SUGAR-FREE GUM

If you’re popping sugar-free gum in your mouth on the regular, you may be sacrificing comfort for fresh breath. “With any gum, you naturally swallow air as you chew. Each chomp on a piece of gum could be contributing to a puffed-up belly,” says nutritionist Rachel Meltzer Warren. She adds that sugar-free gums often contain sugar alcohols, one of the FODMAPs compounds that can also contribute to bloating.

“If your gum contains an ingredient that ends in ‘-ol,’ such as sorbitol or xylitol, it has an even bigger chance of bumping up your bloat,” Meltzer Warren explains. To escape the effect, cut back on the chewing. Commit to a maximum number of pieces per day, such as five, and then reduce your daily ration by one piece every few days. Before long you’ll be gum-free and sporting a flatter tummy.

10. Nothing
A woman walks to the beach

10 NOTHING

Busy summer days may lead to skipped meals or long stretches between them, but a lack of food can actually be a sneaky bloating culprit. “The issue is twofold,” says Cassetty. She explains that many people who skip meals chew gum or gulp beverages to distract from hunger, and these habits cause you to swallow excess air. That air winds up in your digestive system and leads to gassiness, which contributes to that puffy feeling you get in your belly.

Cassetty says the other issue is that skipping meals throws off your digestive system, causing it to work more slowly. “This can contribute to constipation, a prime cause of bloating,” warns nutrition counselor Samantha Cassetty. If you’re too busy to sit down to a meal, keep healthy snacks on hand, such as nuts or roasted chickpeas, so you never have to go without.

What Do YOU Think?
Friends drink wine together

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Do you struggle with chronic bloating? Leave a comment below. Share how dietary changes you’ve made have alleviated your symptoms and helped you to feel more carefree. Your experience may help to motivate and inspire others.

Read more: 7 Best Breakfast Sandwiches and 8 to Avoid

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